Living on the Edge

A public installation along the Providence River explores climate change and community


Walking along South Water Street, the last thing you’d expect to stumble upon is a tree-lined oasis. There’s a mulched pathway to a makeshift bench from a fallen log, surrounded by a young forest of birch, elm, and oak, plus a sea of sunflowers that nod to its creator: Adam E. Anderson, RISD lecturer and artistic mastermind behind the 10,000 Suns project.

This “Living Edge” along the Providence River is Adam’s winning proposal chosen in a competition hosted by DownCity Design’s CityWorks Collective. The cohort sought ideas for a public installation that would reimagine an idle site beside the river as a gathering space. However, they wanted more than just a pretty park. After eight months of extensive research – consulting with neighbors and city agencies and everyone in between – the group decided they wanted the design to explore themes of “community, resilience, climate change, and place-based history.” Adam’s design was the perfect fit.

At first, Adam admits, he was reluctant to participate. “It called to address climate change, community resilience, and history. How can you address all of these in a relatively small budget?” he recalls. His design takes into consideration Providence’s past, from salt marsh to industrial port, and its present, as not-quite defined and unable to weather the effects of storm surges. The felled log pays homage to the native forest that once existed there. The woodc chip paths represent the forest floor. The location complements the kayak ramp and nearby terraced seating. In the middle of downtown, it’s a pocket of flowering meadowland and forest.

“The project demonstrates the necessity of a coexistence of natural and cultural systems within our city and the importance of landscape as a critical component of our urban infrastructure.”